Leading up to World Aids Day on Friday, December 1, the City of Cape Town said it has assisted nearly 50,000 residents with HIV self-tests in 18 months.
The theme for this year is “Let communities lead," and the city believes this theme is fitting considering the gains made in the past two years with the introduction of self-testing and pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis.
Mayoral committee member for community services and health, Councillor Patricia van der Ross, said it will shine the spotlight on prevention and awareness.
“City health has been at the forefront of implementing new HIV and TB policies and guidelines rolled out by the National Department of Health. The City HIV programme has expanded to include prevention strategies like Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) and Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
“The programme is also using new strategies to find untested people through HIV self-screening (HIV SS) and Index Case Testing (ICT),” van der Ross said.
She said the overall goal is to improve HIV testing among people who undertest, such as men, adolescent girls, and young women.
It seeks to improve couple testing among pregnant women and lactating mothers and provides an option for regular repeat HIV testing in high-risk populations.
Between April 2022 and October 2023, 47,773 clients have had assisted HIV SS at city facilities, of which 825 tests were positive.
The City of Cape Town said it would be rolling out secondary distribution of HIV SS test kits next year.
“These programmes are important in reducing stigma and discrimination. They are also critical in the expansion of access to treatments, gives people at-risk choices, and encourage them to check their HIV status while helping those who are negative continue with the prevention,” van der Ross said.
She said since implementing PrEP at city health facilities two years ago, more than 12,000 people have started treatment at the 67 facilities offering this service.
As PrEP is not a life-long treatment, clients can safely discontinue PrEP when their HIV risk is no longer high or if it is their preference.
Post-Exposure Prophylaxis is also available at city facilities to any clients who attend within 72 hours of potential HIV exposure.